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January 16: The Ant Farmer

January 16, 2013

Milton Levine, the creator of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm, 20 million of which have been sold since 1956, died in Thousand Oaks, California at age 97 on this date in 2011. The Ant Farm, which originally had a price of $1.98, immediately sold thousands a week by mail order to children persuaded by television commercials. (Kids were often disappointed to learn that they had to wait several weeks to receive their ants, Pogonomyrmex californicus, red ants shipped by vial from California, where ant collectors were paid by the company a penny per ant.) Levine and his brother-in-law partner, E. Joseph Cossman, also manufactured the kit of “100 Toy Soldiers for $1” that was advertised in nearly every American comic book, as well as the potato gun and toy shrunken heads.

“Someone said that if I’ve got all these ants, then I must be the uncle.” —Milton Levine